Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy
University of Chicago Press, 2005
Cloth: 978-0-226-44699-8 | Paper: 978-0-226-44700-1 | Electronic: 978-0-226-44701-8
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Jane Addams was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Now Citizen, Louise W. Knight's masterful biography, reveals Addams's early development as a political activist and social philosopher. In this book we observe a powerful mind grappling with the radical ideas of her age, most notably the ever-changing meanings of democracy.
Citizen covers the first half of Addams's life, from 1860 to 1899. Knight recounts how Addams, a child of a wealthy family in rural northern Illinois, longed for a life of larger purpose. She broadened her horizons through education, reading, and travel, and, after receiving an inheritance upon her father's death, moved to Chicago in 1889 to co-found Hull House, the city's first settlement house. Citizen shows vividly what the settlement house actually was—a neighborhood center for education and social gatherings—and describes how Addams learned of the abject working conditions in American factories, the unchecked power wielded by employers, the impact of corrupt local politics on city services, and the intolerable limits placed on women by their lack of voting rights. These experiences, Knight makes clear, transformed Addams. Always a believer in democracy as an abstraction, Addams came to understand that this national ideal was also a life philosophy and a mandate for civic activism by all.
As her story unfolds, Knight astutely captures the enigmatic Addams's compassionate personality as well as her flawed human side. Written in a strong narrative voice, Citizen is an insightful portrait of the formative years of a great American leader.
“Knight’s decision to focus on Addams’s early years is a stroke of genius. We know a great deal about Jane Addams the public figure. We know relatively little about how she made the transition from the 19th century to the 20th. In Knight’s book, Jane Addams comes to life. . . . Citizen is written neither to make money nor to gain academic tenure; it is a gift, meant to enlighten and improve. Jane Addams would have understood.”—Alan Wolfe, New York Times Book Review
“My only complaint about the book is that there wasn’t more of it. . . . Knight honors Addams as an American original.”—Kathleen Dalton, Chicago Tribune
Louise W. Knight is an independent scholar who has taught rhetoric at Northwestern University.
“My only complaint about the book is that there wasn’t more of it. . . . It is an epic Chicago story that every city history buff should read.”
— Kathleen Dalton, Chicago Tribune (Best of 2005)
“Knight’s decision to focus on Addams’ early years is a stroke of genius. We know a great deal about Jane Addams the public figure. We know relatively little about how she made the transition from the 19th century to the 20th. In Knight’s book, Jane Addams comes to life. . . . Citizen is written neither to make money nor to gain academic tenure; it is a gift, meant to enlighten and improve. Jane Addams would have understood.”
— Alan Wolfe, New York Times Book Review
“Louise W. Knight’s excellent book makes the case for Addams as a preeminent social thinker and a masterful politician. Knight will have none of Saint Jane; and her biography should forever dispel the lingering assumption that Addams was the church lady of progressivism. She gives us instead a woman who took up residence—quite literally, when she rented Hull House—in the life of her times, eschewing the limits (and the protections) of her sex and refusing to don the veil of Christian charity. Addams entered into the afflictions and aspirations of poor people, and from there she pushed, uninvited, into the back rooms where politicians made the decisions that pressed on poor people’s lives.”
— Christine Stansell, New Republic
"[Citizen] is enviably well-written and deeply engrossing, and a considerable addition to the literature, not just on an extraordinary woman, but on an extraordinary epoch."
— Alan Ryan, New York Review of Books
“Citizen is like a good vacation; once the book is started, one hopes it will go one forever. . . . In many ways, Citizen is the story of Addams’s intellectual journey. Much of the book is a detailed description and analysis of what Addams was reading and thinking about from her teenage years on through adulthood. I say that with some hesitation for fear that prospective readers will think the book too heady. But that is precisely the miracle of Citizen, for one comes away feeling intimately connected with Addams and her struggles.”
— Susan Kerr Chandler, Social Service Review
“Knight succeeds in her efforts to place Addams within the context of her philosophical development. Her study does not shy away from examining Addams’ ambition, her complicated personal relationships, and her prejudices. Knight’s careful dissection of every element of Addams’s transformation from a typical member of her class to an exceptional reformer only serves to further emphasize Addams’s significance to the history of women and to American history in general.”
— Katherine G. Aiken, American Historical Review
"A picture of the persons and experiences that had shaped Addams, from a rather conservative and provincial member of the upper middle class into an outstanding spokesperson for peace, social change, and democracy. . . . Knight covers complicated issues with grace and clarity. However many books one may have read about Jane Addams, this is one not to be missed."
— Margaret Hope Bacon, Friends Journal
“[A] remarkably respectful intellectual biography that adds significantly to our understanding and appreciation of Addams and her times and will be of special interest to scholars of the Progressive Era, women’s activism, urban history, and pragmatism.”
— Ruth Crocker, Historian
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Illustrations
Part I. The Given Life, 1860-88
1. Self-Reliance: 1822-60
2. Three Mothers, 1860-73
3. Dreams, 1873-77
4. Ambition, 1877-80
5. Failure, 1881-83
6. Culture, 1883-86
7. Crisis, 1886-88
Part II. The Chosen Life, 1889-99
8. Chicago, 1889
9. Halsted Street, 1889-91
10. Fellowship, 1892
11. Baptism, 1893
12. Cooperation, 1893-94
13. Claims, 1894
14. Justice, 1895
15. Democracy, 1896-98
16. Ethics, 1898-99
Afterword: Scholarship and Jane Addams
List of Abbreviations